New Jersey gets high marks for its preschool program, but a new report finds we can and should do better.

Flickr User Kevin Lawver
Flickr User Kevin Lawver

"New Jersey has been a national leader in preschool, but it's slipping. Other states are passing us by when it comes to providing access to programs," says Dr. Steve Barnett, Director of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers.

He points out we have some very high-quality programs in New Jersey and research shows we're getting results from those programs, but we're not expanding access to them as quickly as we need to.

Dr. Barnett says New Jersey ranks at the top for investing in spending per child - with Connecticut - at about $11,600 per child. But when it comes to access, we're only 16th in the country.

He also stresses pre-school is vitally important.

"The percentage of children who repeat a grade has fallen dramatically, the percentage of children in special education has fallen, test scores are up, and research from elsewhere in the country shows that these things reduce the percentage of kids who end up in prison, increase high school graduation, the percentage of kids who get good jobs."

Dr. Barnett adds that our major competitors around the world are investing much more in pre-school education, and if we're going to be competitive, we can't fall behind.